In a world where more people are working from home than ever, avoiding video calls with clients who want to “hop on a quick Zoom” is getting harder and harder.

Not only that, but if you work with clients on a regular basis, you’ve probably had to learn how to excel in video calls formats with clients whether you’ve wanted to or not.

But there’s some good news: you’re not alone. Early reports show people and companies of all kinds experience what researchers are calling “Zoom fatigue.”

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And some even better news: There are ways to overcome the stress, fatigue, and added pressure that comes from a video call format with a client.

In this article, we’ll cover two things: 

  1. The best video call format for clients
  2. How to avoid video calls from clients in the first place

By the end of this article, you’ll have an arsenal of tools, tips, and ideas for either avoiding a video call from a client or excelling when you have no other choice.

Video Call Formats for Clients

First, let’s explore a few ways to make the video call format for clients a bit less painful. The following advice should be followed in addition to these tips for in-person client meetings.

Here are some tips for making the most of your client video call:

Own the meeting (use your own account)

If you’re just not able to avoid a video call from a client, then at least make sure you take control of the call itself. 

Owning the meeting (asking a client to use your video call link) will ensure you can control who attends, how long the meeting runs, and what technology is used.

If you let your client own the call, they can invite unwanted guests (surprise!) or use some random technology you have to download an app and create an account for.

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Set an agenda for the video call

If you’re going to take the time to jump on a video call with a client, make it worthwhile by having an agenda. 

In the business world, a video call should be treated like a meeting. There should be a strict expectation of what will be covered and accomplished by the end of the call.

If your client wants to quickly chat about something (no agenda) then a phone call, Slack message, or email is better. (More on how to encourage your clients to use different formats and avoid a client video call altogether below.)

Timebox your client video calls

In addition to a clear agenda, you should timebox your call. Unless you’re offering some kind of open office hours for your clients (which I do NOT recommend), your time is valuable and you should encourage your clients to respect it.

Start off the meeting by saying something like “I have a hard-stop at 12:30” or “I’ve got another commitment at 2pm” which will clarify that you’ve only got a certain amount of time for this client video call.

If your clients are really insistent about taking up a lot of your time, you might consider billing them for the hours they spend on a call with you. This is particularly true if you’re providing consultation during the video call.

Tie Up Loose Ends over Email

If a conversation over video call is beginning to go way too long, try saying something like “I think this is headed in the right direction. For time’s sake, let’s wrap up the final details over email.”

This will move the agenda forward without curtailing any important points or making your client feel like you’re cutting them off.

How to Avoid Video Calls from Clients

If, even after reviewing the video call format for clients above you still find you’re very nervous about calling clients, that’s totally fine. 

Being nervous is normal.

And there’s nothing wrong with figuring out how to avoid video calls from clients in the first place. Just because we CAN video call each other doesn’t mean a video call format is always the best option.

Here’s how to avoid a video call from a client:

Ask “is a video call really needed here?”

Start off by asking yourself (and maybe even your client) is a video call really needed here? 

To reiterate, a video call is much like a business meeting. It’s meant to tackle big issues and lengthy agendas that can’t be handled with a quick conversation.

In  many instances, a (non-video) phone call, email thread or Slack message will do the trick.

You might even want to ask the client:

Client: Can we just hop on a quick video call?

You: I’d love to chat with you, but wondering if a quick email thread would make more sense?

Give a valid reason for not turning on your video

Most clients tend to be pretty reasonable and will understand if you’re in a situation where you can’t (or don’t want to) turn on your video during a call.

In situations where the absolute truth isn’t the best option:

“I’m still in my pajamas and my toddler is running around naked behind me.”

try something a bit more professional to avoid a video call with a client:

“I’m not really in a place where I can turn my video right now, but my audio is on and I’m listening.”

Here are a few other valid reasons you could give to avoid a video call with a client:

  • I’d prefer to keep a paper trail so we don’t miss any details. Are you okay to continue via email?
  • My internet is a bit spotty right now; would a phone call be okay with you?
  • I’ll be on the road during our call and can give you my full attention on the phone. Will that work?

Offer alternatives to a client video call

Since you can’t just flat-out refuse a client who’s asking for a video call, be prepared with a few alternatives such as a phone call, text thread, or email.

You might try something like:

“A video call would be difficult for me right now, but I’m happy to jump on the phone.”

This tells your client you’re still invested in talking to them and helping them, but can’t commit to a full impromptu meeting at the moment.

You can also try something like this:

“I’d love to get an idea of what you’d like to talk about here via email and if we both think a video call is still the right way to go, we can definitely schedule one.”

This leaves the door open to a video call in the future but also gives you the opportunity to solve their concerns and answer their questions over email instead.

Putting it all together

Now that we’ve reviewed a few formats for client video calls AND ways to avoid client video calls in the first place, let’s put it all together. A client exchange might go something like this:

Client: Hey, can we jump on a quick video call to sort this out?

You: I’d be happy to, although, I’m not in a place I can get on video right away. Should we keep chatting over email for a bit and see if a video call makes sense a bit later? (Asking if Video Makes Sense; Offering Alternatives)

Client: I just think it’d be quicker to jump on a Zoom call…

You: I see what you mean. I can’t do video right now, but I’d be happy to jump on the phone for 5 minutes to sort this one thing out. Will that work for you? (Offering Alternatives; Timeboxing; Setting Agenda)

Client: I actually have a few other things I want to chat about while we’re on the call too.

You: I’m excited to hear them. I’ve only got about 5 minutes now, but let’s schedule a time to have a 30-minute video call and get this all moving forward. (Timeboxing, Setting Agenda)

Client: Sounds great. Thanks!

You: My pleasure.

Of course, not all conversations will go perfectly and you most likely can’t avoid every single client video call that comes your way, but these methods can help you avoid some of the worst ones, excel at the rest, and keep client video calls from taking over your life and business.

A few more FAQs about client video calls

To wrap things up, I want to make sure we address some frequent concerns about client video calls. Here we go:

How do I stop client video calling?

While you may not be able to 100% stop client video calling, you can dramatically reduce the number of client video calls you get by asking if a video call is really needed, offering alternatives to a video call, or giving a valid reason for not turning on your video.

How do I politely refuse call requests from customers and instead ask them to send an email?

If you don’t want to offer phone support to customers or clients, start by not making your phone number or Zoom number available to customers where possible. To make up for the lack of phone or video calls, use customer support apps to improve your customer support experience. Most of these apps will send an email to your customer once they reach out, encouraging an email-only conversation.

How do you tell a client to stop calling?

If you want to keep the relationship with the client, identify why they feel the need to call you frequently and address that need another way (weekly meetings, faster email responses, etc). If you’re fine to lose the client relationship, tell them you’ll no longer be answering their calls and block their number.

How can I politely refuse a phone call?

There are plenty of ways to politely refuse a call. Try offering another communication method such as email, Slack, Messenger, or texting. You can also blame a busy schedule, poor internet/reception, or a need for a paper trail.

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Millo Articles by Preston Lee

Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more. Connect with Preston on Twitter.
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